How To Fund Research To Enhance Your Organisation’s Role And Function?

Getting money to fund research and  resources to support it for your organisation can be difficult in the current economic climate.  Here we provide some ideas, about how you could approach doing this which involves both using existing sources of funding, raising new finances for research, and /or entering into partnerships with other organisations.

Existing funding sources

Below, you will find a list of notes and links which are the main sources of funding available for research in the UK, for the funding in the voluntary sector.  This also includes sources of advice and support to doing research.  In general term (depending on the type of issues being researched, the size of your organisation and the purpose of the work) it may be possible to ‘create’ resources through innovative partnerships of one kind, or another.  This would in enhance the ability of your organisation to apply for certain types of funding, that are currently available.  For further information see our notes on partnership funding.

Creating new resources, and funding for research.

The first step is always, to develop some ideas of what research you would like to do.  It’s important to think about the purpose of the research, i.e. what it’s going to be used for, and how it enhances your organisations functional role, before deciding what ‘type’ of research to do.  The 2nd thing to think about is the kind of ‘research questions’, in general terms that you might wish to answer  and the kinds of ‘target groups’ that are going to be involved e.g.  Patients, carers, professionals, policymakers.

Some examples of research questions;

  • What are experiences of patients who visit their GP about pain medication?
  • Are there any groups that are disadvantaged in terms of the services and healthcare they receive (eg men, women, ethnic minorities etc)?
  • What impact does current (local or national) commissioning policy have on people with a specific health condition?

Once you have a basic idea of what you’d like to do, the next step would be to look around for appropriate partners.  Firstly it might be useful to investigate whether there are any academic departments that have a specific interest in the kind of issues you would like to pursue.  For example if you’re research ties into the expertise, or the existing research of an academic, they might well be interested in some kind of a ‘collaboration’.  This collaboration could involve your organisation paying them to do some work, or it could mean that they help you because they maintain an interest in the area.  Some academics will give free advice to the voluntary sector.

Another way of approaching this would be to form a formal collaboration, i.e. a formal partnership, with an academic department or academic staff, in order to apply for funding from existing funding sources.  For example there are some research funding sources such as the NIHR are open to applications from researchers from any sector to investigate issues around access to services and service use and evaluation (which could be for specific conditions or health problems).  However they will only normally accept applications where there is some academic input.

Recent news is that there is a considerable amount of money available from this funding stream, as it is not being widely used at the current time.  This of course may change.  Obviously forming a partnership will require clear partnership working agreements, of the kind that are normally set up.  However there may be a number of additional points that need to be considered because it’s about research.

Example you may need to consider;

  • Who is the lead researcher, and what role do other participants play?
  • Who and how ethical problems are going to be dealt with, under which ethical guidelines?
  • How is the project going to be coordinated and the research facilitated, roles of different participants?
  • Is there an overall project plan, and who is in charge of developing that and making sure it is added to?
  • Who is in charge of monitoring any expenditure/funding associated with the project and dealing with the finances?

etc etc.

To some extent the kinds of issues you need to include in a partnership agreement, will depend on the circumstances of the research the nature of the participants and partners, and so on.

Joint research with other organisations

In addition to forging relationships with academics, or academic departments, it is also possible to do joint research with other organisations whose role interests overlap with your own.  So the first port of call, would be to look at but which other organisations (voluntary sector, public sector research, quangos, community groups, etc) may have overlapping interests.  These may overlap in terms of the area of the country that they’re interested in (regional, national, local), or the nature of the research that is being done (survey of the population, folk local focus groups, etc), or the client groups that they are targeting (specific health problems, diagnostic categories, attendees to clinics or advice centres etc).

Once you have found an organisation whose interests may overlap, the issue is, to see if you could share resources to join together research for mutual benefit.  This is potentially more complex than working with an academic department because of issues around whether there is clear understanding about the purpose of the research, the way it’s being done ,and the potential resources and funds, that are necessary.

However it is possible to do research in this way successfully.  One example would be the social and population needs audits, that are undertaken by local councils every year, which are often done jointly with other organisations.  For example in West Sussex a large project of this kind was done jointly with district councils, all of whom put in the same amount of money and the project was jointly managed but coordinated by the county council.  This gathered a massive amount of information about the needs of the local population that was of interest to all the councils.

Another interesting possibility is to join up research that doesn’t have a contract, and focus but shares the target group for.  An example of this might be a local survey of patients that is being done by a local authority in conjunction with the GP commissioning group, where it might be possible to ‘add a page of questions’ into the survey for a small sum.  Some organisations such as market research companies, offer panels – these are normally ‘groups of people’ that have opted to answer a survey, so that several different organisations can ‘buy into’ that survey and ‘add questions in’.  So it is possible (depending on the type of work ) to be ‘the catalyst’ for a ‘new panel’ in a local area -such as area covered by a GP commissioning group, a hospital, or a GP surgery.

Creating new finances to fund research

If partnerships or joint research are not possible, and there aren’t any clear funding streams to support the work you want to do there is one other option.

This would be to fund raise specifically for research.  This is quite a good option.  You may have seen the recent adverts on the television with the comedian Bill Bailley, talking about prostate cancer research, and asking men to contribute to that fund.

It is well-known now that patients are very happy to contribute money specifically towards research.  Our experience is that if a campaign is launched just to raise research funds this can be far more successful, than more ‘general fundraising’ for a charity.  The reason is that people like to feel that they are contributing to research which they see as special and innovative.  They are particularly pleased and ready to fund research that looks that patient’s needs, access to services, and policy issues.  This is because often ordinary people understand that this could lead to better services for themselves or for other people.

We would recommend the use of the Internet and social media for fundraising for research, and of course there are a wide variety of different ways of doing this many of which are already familiar to the voluntary sector.  Obviously if you represent patients with a specific condition that is very common, it is easier to fund raised for research, within that group.  However people with a very rare condition, who are also often willing to put forward the money.  The main point here is that to do research into ‘access to services’ is much much easier, and potentially cheaper, than doing more clinical or by chemical orientated research. Particularly if your organisation were to put some resources that you already have (eg adminstrative, research expertise, etc) into the project which makes it even cheaper. It is also often much more useful information for an organisation for its campaigns, media or educational activities, and can ensure you organisation makes an impact on services for patients, that they value.

We can of course as a consultancy offer some of these services to you.  KNVresearch for example can help you find an academic or another organisation to partner with, advise you as to how to fund raise for research funds, and/or set up partnerships in order to apply for funding. We can help you decide what type of research best suits your needs, and help you secure funding.

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